The most direct measure of whether a training or educational program has market value is whether its graduates have the knowledge and skills required in the job market. Yet, a recently released Gallup poll sponsored by the Lumina Foundation indicates that only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree that graduates of higher education programs have the skills and competencies that their business needs. This is a disturbing number.
Clearly there needs to be a serious improvement in the linkage between business leaders and educational providers if the skills gap is going to be closed.
Last month, Jane Weissman wrote about the importance of industry linkage in her column “Donuts to Doing.” Well, pour the coffee and roll up your sleeves because based on the Gallup-Lumina report, we have a lot of work to do.
The good news is that 88 percent of business leaders want to see an increase in collaboration with higher education institutions.
To produce graduates who have the knowledge and skills required in a job, employers are looking for competency-based and project-based learning. It is not simply sufficient to teach concepts. It is critical to provide hands-on experiences and to objectively measure whether a student is learning the material taught.
There are several specific components that the IREC Credentialing Program looks for when assessing the market value and outcomes of a training program.
- Linkage with industry: essential to ensuring that a program is preparing students for jobs that exist within a market.
- Curriculum based on an industry-validated Job Task Analysis: fundamental to developing a curriculum that teaches the skills and knowledge a job requires.
- Hands-on/lab experience: vital to providing the practical learning employers are seeking.
- Assessment of student learning: necessary for demonstrating that graduates have learned the tasks and knowledge being taught.
To further understand and help close the skills gap, and to find and support solutions to increasing collaboration with industry, IREC has joined the recently formed National Network of Business and Industry Association (NNBIA) established by the ACT Foundation. Joining discussions about setting national standards for industry credentials and pathways for learning that result in employment, IREC is at the table to learn from and share with a broad cross-section of industry experiences and ensure that clean energy is included in the conversation.
To develop a quality program, we expect training providers to be directly engaged with industry and, by joining NNBIA, we continue to demonstrate that we at IREC expect no less from ourselves.